Snow job

Living in Ohio all my life I grew comfortable with the changes in weather.  Autumn brought chilly air that turned frigid in November which was predating a cold and snowy winter that lead into the cool and comfortable spring in preparation of a very humid summer. This was the annual cycle of life with the occasional exception of a few nice comfortable days spattered here and there through the year. There was something about each season that offered a time when the weather was practically perfect such that it brings a smile to my face. That is the beauty of Ohio.

It was January, 1978 and little did we know that the storm of the century would be upon us…

Dad was an augur – he could predict future events based upon omens. I was born with two bumps on my head, as I understand it, similar to horns. Dad took this as an omen. He knew when I was of age it would be best that I use a riding lawn mower rather than a push one. In addition, he made the great decision to not only have a simple riding mower, he made sure it was outfitted with a snow blade,  wheel chains and wheel weights – which came in very handy when the snows arrived.

Our initial mission with each snow was to clear the driveway and sidewalk. Once our home was void of that cold white powder we headed straight up to the store to make sure the sidewalks and parking lot were cleared. After that anything was fair game. Maybe help a neighbor or, more often than not, it was time for the power sled.

Power sledding usually happened later in the day or evening. We would connect together several sleds with whatever rope we could find and then use the tractor to pull the sled-conga line through the streets of Attica. The person driving the tractor always had control and the one on the last sled had no control. The first sled nearest to the tractor was reserved for the more responsible kid; this person had to keep an eye on the remaining sleds and shout to the driver anytime we needed to stop and pickup anyone who fell off. Whoever was on the last sled was at the mercy of the entire sled-line as he would be whipped around uncontrollably. The middle sleds? Well, you had to be careful here because whenever the last sled became misaligned with the front sled and the ropes went slack the entire line would try to realign and the middle sleds would whip to the left or right so fast you would be shot off and run over by the sled behind.

Even with this drive-clearing, sled pulling, fun loving power, the tractor was no match for the storm that would eventually dump over a foot of snow with drifts in the teens in height due to winds in excess of fifty miles per hour.

We had owned the drug store for less than two years. It was a staple in our town and dad was dedicated to making sure it was open and available from 7:30 AM until at least 9 PM each and every day. Waking up on that Thursday morning we knew almost immediately that school was cancelled upon discovering the snow speeding horizontally past our bedroom windows. As is tradition, mom fixed us our snow-day breakfast of graham crackers and milk while dad prepared for work. Mom questioned his dedication and thought it best for him to stay home but he could not be stopped. We watched him quickly disappear in a white cloud as he walked up the alley toward town.

Mom was reluctant to allow us to go outside that day. We pleaded with her that our driveway would need to be cleared throughout the day. There were limitations to the amount of snow the tractor could plow and if we allowed the snow to build up we would have to shovel it by hand – sacrilegious!

Sometime after noon mom allowed us to head up to the store to help dad maintain the sidewalks.

There have been times when I stood in our backyard, especially in the evening, when it is snowing. The falling snow creates a sound barrier for what otherwise would be “normal”” sounds of life; cars, birds, wind, people. When the flakes were big enough I would close my eyes and listen to them land – a soft “puff” sound that could be heard nowhere else.

On the way to the store the snow pelted our faces like pins and needles. This snow you couldn’t hear, you could only see and feel. It wasn’t so much that it was cold, just windy. And ice flying at your face in excess of 40 miles per hour was enough to hurt the skin.

At the town square the amount of snow was mind boggling. Route 224 that ran between our store and Decker’s Furniture acted like a huge wind tunnel where the wind whipped between the two buildings depositing a rather long, deep snow drift. It was in excess of ten feet high…and still growing.

Dad was in the store, I believe alone, employee wise. He had coffee available, his specialty, but the remainder of food services turned off. In this type of weather in such a small town, people (mostly men) gather to simply talk about how bad it was and predict what the future weather would bring. We had no internet, no smart phones, no Weather Channel, only a couple of TV stations that were at least an hour away and a few local radio stations. The radio was on and there was no music, only talking. Coffee flowed, locals warmed, the radio droned on and we all reminisced while the snow continued.

Sometime in the late afternoon dad decided to close the store and return home. There were no customers and the long sidewalks were covered within minutes of shoveling. The next day, Friday, was going to be an even busier day with the clearing of tons of snow. The radio told us a couple of gigantic front-end loaders were making their way on 224 from Tiffin to Attica, clearing the roadway. It wasn’t until about 9 PM that they finally made it to our town square. That huge snow drift between us and Decker’s was no match for the strong hydraulic equipment. We waved to the drivers while they continued through the town square onto the county line miles down the road. Sunday evening, with open roads and piles upon piles of packed snow along the curbs, it was time to reconnect the sleds and enjoy ourselves. I snapped back and forth on the last sled while at the hands of Mitch’s driving; that right there is the only thing I miss about Ohio snow.